Great-grandmother survives 5 days stranded in mountains with her cat

Posted at 11:01 PM, Mar 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-30 18:39:51-04

AKRON, Colo. -- An 85-year-old Colorado great-grandmother is safe at home after she was stranded for five days in her car in the mountains.

Ruby Stein was in Gypsum visiting family last week and she and her cat, Nikki, were just starting the 200-mile trip back to her home in Akron.

"I'd been stuck at Eisenhower tunnel before, and I thought, 'I want to get out of here before that snow comes in.' Well, I took a wrong turn," said Stein.

Instead of going to I-70, she accidentally drove deep into a rural mountainous area, getting her 2007 Nissan Sentra stuck at the end of a muddy dirt road.

Her cell phone didn't have a signal, and by Wednesday her car battery had died, drained by the lights she kept flashing to bring help.

But Ruby says she didn't panic.

"I keep myself very calm, which surprised me. Of course, if you raise 5 kids, you know," she said with a smile. "What will be, will be. You just got to accept it."

That resourcefulness helped her survive, as she fashioned a makeshift blanket from clothes her granddaughter had given her for donations.

She also melted snow in a can on her dashboard during the day, and she rationed sweet rolls and Rice Krispie treats to two bites a day, wondering if she would have to eat her cat's food to keep from starving.

"I kept thinking, 'I wonder what that would taste like,' she said. "And I was almost out of food."

Meanwhile, she said her cat kept her warm, sleeping on her chest and giving her companionship.

Stein said the only time she cried was on day two, when she saw a helicopter and thought it was searching for her. 

A statewide missing person alert had been put out, and family members were searching, but they thought she would be somewhere along the I-70 corridor -- nowhere near where she was stranded.

After five days and four frigid nights waiting inside her car for fear she would get hurt if she tried to walk in the deep snow, Stein had almost given up hope, when she heard two hikers outside her car.

Katie Preston and Dan Higbee had not even planned on hiking there that day, but the Eagle County Sheriff's Office said their Good Samaritan actions saved Stein's life.

"We stopped and peaked in since the car door was open and asked, 'Is everybody ok? Is anybody in there?," said Higbee. "I can't even believe she got her car that far down the road."

Stein was in good health, and only a little dehydrated.

"It really reinforces that there's something greater out there. We were meant to be there," said Preston.

Stein said she has always been a fighter, and thoughts of her grandchildren and her faith kept her going.

"I was never so glad to see anybody in my life," said Stein. "I've always been a strong person, strong woman. I believe whatever happens happens for a reason."


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